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Title: Mapping design things : making design explicit in the discourse of change
Author: Johnson, Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 5920 354X
Awarding Body: University of Glasgow
Current Institution: Glasgow School of Art
Date of Award: 2016
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From innovation-driven cultures (Neumeier, 2009; Kelly, 2010) to democratic, participatory approaches (Sanders and Stappers, 2008; Binder, De Michelis, Ehn, Jaccuci, Linde and Wagner, 2011), engagement with increasingly complex disciplinary situations means that design is becoming “a more integrated activity involving collaboration among many different professions” (Cross, 2011:91). For designers, this emerging notion of design has resulted in an expansive array of approaches, co-design tools, activities, data gathering techniques and visualisations. In addition, one could argue that there is now a requirement for designers to acquire communication and facilitation skills to demonstrate and share how such methods can shape new ways of working. The meaning of these design things (Binder et al., 2011) in practice can’t be taken for granted as ‘matters of fact’ (Latour, 2005), which raises a key challenge for design. As Bruno Latour puts it: ‘where are the visualization tools that allow the contradictory and controversial nature of matters of concern to be represented?’ (Latour, 2008:9) This thesis investigation addresses Latour’s call to design for organisational and social change. Focusing on the role of design things in organisational discourse, an emerging rhetoric for design is critiqued that has driven the rise of design-led innovation in disciplines such as User-Centred Design, Design Management and Participatory Design. An exploration of the existing models and management literature for implementing change, alongside shifting representations of design knowledge, is explored to discern the ways in which organisational discourse, manifested in the power-broking devices that shape ways of working, could become an object of design. Reflective practice is explored as a mode of inquiry to position an approach to design-led innovation that is both object-oriented and reflexive, shifting the thesis towards a performative case for inquiry. The author’s approach has been to develop a visual method of mapping translated from actor-network theory (ANT). Foregrounding ANT’s focus on observation and description, the approach was applied as a frame (Callon, 1986) for representing the performative agency of design things across three case studies of design-led innovation. In case study one, designers and entrepreneurs were brought together and funded by Design in Action to develop business ideas tackling type 2 diabetes. This design-led project allowed the first iteration of actor-network mapping to represent the role of design things in its development. In case study two, a design intervention with an SME textiles manufacturer in Scotland aimed to develop a sustainable culture of innovation. This allowed exploration of the role of design things using actor-network mapping and situational analysis (Clarke, 2005), applied as interpretative overlays, on their impact with the designers. In case study three, experience-focused design labs aimed to innovate digital, product and service solutions in the context of health. This allowed for live iterations of actor-network mapping with design participants, and their emergent articulations of matters of concern. Across all three case studies, a grounded theory analysis (Charmaz, 2006) was performed on the participant interviews and mapping discussions to reveal core categories tracing the performative agency of design things as matters of concern. Actor-network mapping seeks to bring the matters of concern affecting the organisation of such work into focus as an object of design by facilitating reflexive, participatory dialogue between designers and the actors they collaborate with. The suggestion is that any notions of strategic value, of engendering meaningful change, of making things better by design, through design work, should be grounded in the reflexive interpretations of matters of concern that emerge. The contribution to knowledge, therefore, is a theory/methods package framing design as a performative act that reflexively explicates design in practice, as well as the wider discursive boundaries of design-led innovation.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available